November 25, 2008

The interval technique

Solution-focused professionals often use a lot of questions. Many of those can be answered right away. But sometimes solution-focused therapist, coaches, managers or teacher ask questions that cannot readily be answered. This can be the case when the other person does not yet have a clear idea about what the answer might be and needs some time to think about that. And it can also happen that someone does not know whether he is willing to answer the question. In both situations solution-focused practitioners may use a certain type of question that allows their conversation partner some extra time to think, both about the answer and about their own position. Here are a few examples of such questions:
  • 'John, I'd like to sit down for a moment with you tomorrow so that we can talk about some ideas you have about how you can keep project X within the time planning. Could you think about that a bit so that we can talk about it tomorrow?'
  • ‘Margaret, on Monday I will see you again in class. This weekend, could you think of some ideas about how you can get your math grade up? I'd like to hear some of your ideas about that on monday. Is that okay?'
Here is an example of a case in which this type of question is used: Sent to the principal!
As far as I know, until now, nobody has come up with a name for this type of question. That is a pity. A technique with no name is hard to remember and discuss with other people. Yesterday, I trained a group of professionals and I explained about this type of question. I told them it has no name and asked for ideas. Someone, Anneke Kapteyn, came up with a term that sounds interesting: the interval technique. Another participant came up with another interesting possibility: the reflection technique. Also a good one, isn't it? More suggestions are welcome!


  1. Some ideas that come to mind:

    priming question
    preparation question

  2. thanks, good names. More ideas remain welcome


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